Pubdate: Thu, 17 Feb 2005
Source: Evening News (UK)
Copyright: 2005 Archant Regional
Author: Jeremy Crisp
Referenced: (Charles 
Bookmark: (Hemp - Outside U.S.)


During the Middle Ages, Norwich was one of the wealthiest provincial cities 
in England.

The money which flowed into the city at that time was primarily generated 
from farming in Norfolk.  Around the time our fine Mediaeval Churches were 
under construction, both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I had passed laws making 
it compulsory for all landowners farming a given acreage to devote a 
minimum percentage of their land to the growing of hemp.

"Hemp? But surely that's Cannabis?", I hear you say.  Well not exactly; all 
cannabis is hemp, but not all hemp is cannabis - in that it's only certain 
strains of the many varieties of Hemp which contain the psychoactive 
elements that have been demonised these past 80 years or more. During 
mediaeval times, the Royal Navy in particular had a pressing need for 
materials, for which hemp was the accepted source.

Welcome to the 21st Century. Global Warming. Horrific conflicts waged over 
the ownership of crude oil reserves. Widespread poverty in Africa, South 
America. Crime and disorder in the streets of Britain fuelled largely by 
the routine over-indulgence in alcohol, and an epidemic of addiction to 
'hard' drugs. The "war against Drugs". Such 'wars' are very easy to 
declare; they polarise every discussion into black and white, right and wrong.

So, when is a drug not a drug? Answer - when it's a herb!

Herb: defined as "A seed plant that does not develop permanent woody 
tissue, and dies down at the end of a growing season. A plant (part) valued 
for its medicinal, savoury or aromatic qualities"

The nearest Cannabis Sativa comes to genuinely being a "drug" is its 
potential to be habit-forming. It is now scientifically accepted that 
cannabis is not physically addictive in the true sense of the word, and I 
feel it should finally be taken out of the loop in terms of the war against 

Consider these two facts. That almost everything we currently produce by 
extracting and refining crude oil could instead be gained through the 
reintroduction of hemp to farming in the large parts of the world where it 
would thrive. And secondly that, of the whole plant kingdom, hemp is 
apparently the most effective in absorbing carbon dioxide and giving out 
oxygen. We really could, in a few years' time, be driving our cars around 
Norwich using fuel grown and produced in the fields of Norfolk!

I congratulate Charles Clarke in his succession to Mr Blunkett as the new 
Home Secretary, but these days, as much as ever, there are none so blind as 
those that don't want to see.

Jeremy Crisp St Benedicts Street Norwich
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